Friday, April 20, 2007

A Prayer for the Dying

By the time you read this post, a close friend of my family and a good man of God, will have had his life support ventilator switched off. Richard went into hospital earlier this week to have a benign tumour removed... sadly all did not go well.

Last night, there was a gathering of many townsfolk in the church. They gathered for one reason and one alone... to lift Richard - our friend and theirs, up in prayer.

We first knew him through his role of choirmaster and church organist... and he quickly endeared himself to our family and the people of this town with his wonderful eccentricity and his zest for life. They say it takes a generation - 20 years, for the traditional folk of Alcester to truly accept an "outsider". If there is truth in that statement, then Richard was surely the ultimate exception. I would argue that he was perhaps Alcester's favourite adopted son. People knew him for different reasons - be it through his profession as a music teacher, or his involvement in the church... but everyone loved him for the same reasons.

In more recent times, Richard married and joined the clergy. He didn't really take many of the services at my church, in fact I believe I only managed to attend one service he took at Great Alne... but what a service it was. You could say many things about his preaching and leading style... but the one thing you would never be able to say... was that it was boring. Everything was magnificently manic and full of life.

I'll always remember the Alpha Course session he led, on the nature of good and evil. He dressed up in old school props to demonstrate the full armour of God. He used a bent fencing sword, a dustbin lid and an old air raid helmet amongst other things. Everybody in the room was in stitches. Yet, just 5 minutes later he recited a heart rending true account about the aftermath of a bombing raid. He described the carnage, the pain and the grief... and the whole room was in agreement with him about how terrible it was. And then he asked the people in the room - most of whom were old enough to remember... just where they though these events had taken place: London? Birmingham? Liverpool? Coventry? No... it was Dresden. I loved that moment because he affirmed everything I believe about good and evil - that we as humans often view evil subjectively... we fall into the trap of assuming our country is unquestionably correct on most matters, because it is "cultured" and democratic, but really you could call it a form of nationalistic arrogance. It was good of Richard to pooint it out... as only he could. To be honest, I don't think anyone else could quite have got away with it.

That was Richard to a tee. He never took himself too seriously but always made sure the seriousness behind the message came across. He always left the stage leaving people with something to chew over... but never gave it to them in a painful manner.

And so this blog entry is my tribute to him... my prayers go out to his family and friends... and I hope, if you feel willing or bold enough... that yours will too.

Father I give thanks for your servant Richard. I thank you that he has touched many lives in the brief time he was with us. I pray that you welcome him into your loving arms... a good and faithful servant. May you keep his family safe in the palm of your hands, by the power of your Holy Spirit. May they be comforted in their hour of need. May the seeds that were sown through Richard, not fall on barren soil. May the hearts that heard him speak your Word... respond to it.

May he be remembered on Earth... and welcomed in Heaven.

In the name of Jesus


As a tribute to Richard, who was both a man of music and man of faith; I have provided a link to a piece of music on YouTube which made me think about him this week. It is an orchestral rendition of music from The Mission. I feel it is appropriate as it is both bittersweet and victorious. One of the main characters - Gabriel, is a Jesuit priest who clearly loves music, as he plays an Oboe. His character made me think of Richard... and the mix of music and belief, felt very appropriate in remembering Richard. If you have a few minutes, follow this link.


  1. Anonymous3:51 am





  2. Anonymous3:57 pm

    Beautiful words Nick, thank you. I struggle to put my feelings and thoughts into words. At 8:30 last night I played through many pieces of music that Richard and I had played together. I owe a lot of who I am today to this great man...

  3. Anonymous8:06 pm

    Thank you, I'd never known Mr Dobell as a preacher only as a teacher, but it sounds like much of his preaching and style are the same as they were in his assemblies. I think many of us owe a lot to him for one reason or another...Thank you.


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